That meme featuring Admiral Ackbar superimposed behind those three words perfectly depicted what the Charlotte Hornets were up against Saturday night.
“It’s a trap” was another way to describe the Hornets’ situation, given their matchup with Houston represented the proverbial trap game. With Charlotte riding the coattails of a stretch in which it had won eight of its previous nine games, facing the second end of a back-to-back and taking on the league’s worst team, all the ingredients were there for a serious letdown.
Turns out, complacency was indeed an issue against Houston and it doomed the Hornets. They needed a furious fourth-quarter rally just to send it to overtime, but still succumbed to the Rockets 146-143 at the Toyota Center in Houston after Kelly Oubre’s potential game-winning 3-pointer spun out with 3.1 seconds remaining.
LaMelo Ball, who recorded his second triple double of the season and third of his career with 19 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, also misfired on a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the end of overtime.
“I think the start could have been much better mentally,” coach James Borrego said. “We were not locked in, we were not the aggressive team. They were the much more aggressive team. They’ve been sitting here for a couple of days and we needed to come out with a more aggressive mindset. So give them credit for that. We’ve got to be better on these back to backs, especially.”
The Hornets (13-9) began their four-game road trip rather unfulfilled. They trailed by as many as 17 points and their largest lead was a mere two points. Not exactly what one would have expected in this one.
“It never should have got to that point,” said Miles Bridges, who had 22 points and five rebounds. “We were playing them by their record and they did a good job of coming out and punching us in the mouth. So credit to them.”
Here are three things we learned in the Hornets’ loss to Houston (3-16) that halted their three-game winning streak:
WHERE’S THE ‘D’?
Reversing their defensive trend is one of the reasons for the Hornets’ turnaround. Charlotte has dug in much better on that side of the ball, limiting its opposition to under 100 points in three of its last eight outings.
But the Rockets feasted on the Hornets from the opening tip, making a season-high 23 3-pointers, posting 73 first-half points and shooting 53.8 percent. That included a 55 percent mark beyond the arc. The Hornets yielded 43 points in the first quarter — Houston’s best scoring quarter of the season by seven points — and were aggressive in getting to the free throw line, taking 15 of them in the first half. Christian Wood nearly registered a double double in the first quarter, pumping in nine points and hauling in nine rebounds.
Wood had five dunks through a quarter and a half.
“I don’t want to want to say it was one of those nights, but it kind of looked like it,” said Terry Rozier, who paced the Hornets with 31 points. “It kind of looked dry, it kind of looked dry from the jump.”
The Hornets weren’t shy about hoisting them up behind the arc.
Of their 103 overall shots, 50 were from 3-point range. They made 20, amounting to a 40% showing, and were really off the mark in overtime when they misfired on all seven attempts. They seemed jump shot happy all night and didn’t drive to the basket as often as they probably should have.
“I thought we settled on a lot of them,” Bridges said. “We could have got to the rim more and got fouled, got better shots. But we’ll do a better job on it. We’ll watch film. We’ll get better.”
Rozier, who went 6 for 16 from 3-point territory, suggested it’s part of their usual game plan.
“Nah, 40-50 threes a game,” Rozier said. “Run and gun. That’s who we are. We’ve got a lot of players that can shoot, we’ve got a lot of players that can score. That’s just what it is.”
FRONT AND CENTER
With Mason Plumlee missing his second straight game with a calf strain, something Borrego termed as “precautionary” with the Hornets’ starting center, it represented another opportunity for PJ Washington or Nick Richards to take advantage of some extra rotation minutes.
Washington didn’t quite get it going until late, similar to what he did against Minnesota on Friday, when he had 17 points. He had 13 points with six assists and five rebounds, and had a crucial putback on LaMelo Ball’s 3-point miss just at the end of regulation, which squared the game and sent it into the extra session.
Richards, continuing his incremental insertion in the lineup, was solid with a modest three points and two rebounds in his limited seven minutes.